There's Only One Takeaway From The Iowa Caucuses

All the way back in 2015, I remember chatting casually with a “reasonable” Republican about the crowded GOP primary. He was skeptical and contemptuous of Trump; I was grimly certain. Trump would do well in Iowa, I said, stall in New Hampshire, and then pick up momentum in South Carolina before barreling through the south, picking up winner-take-all delegate hauls along the way to the nomination. The Republican I spoke with was incredulous: Surely one of the other dozen-plus candidates would make a case for themselves; surely voters weren’t that detached from reality; surely some scandal or malaprop would derail Trump.

The difference between me and this Republican acquaintance wasn’t experience or policy or perspective; it was that he saw the GOP as he wanted it to be, and I saw the party for what it was.

No such illusions remain for Donald Trump’s victory last night in Iowa, where he confirmed, yet again, that he alone maintains control over the Republican Party— lock, stock and barrel. Showings for his so-called challengers were anemic at best, with Trump easily setting a record for the GOP side of the caucus ledger with what is currently a 30-point lead over his nearest competitor, Ron DeSantis, who managed a measly 21 percent. Right now, the path to the Republican nomination isn’t a contest. It’s a coronation.

Even if Trump were unavailable on the ballot, he has won whatever passes for a moral argument by getting every other candidate to adopt his thoroughly autocratic demand for pardoning everyone involved in the armed insurrection on January 6th. Added to the numerous promises to invade Mexico, militarize the southern border, neglect or abandon our international partnerships and treaties, and to generally ignore the separation of powers, it’s hard to argue that anyone in the Republican Party is running to replace Trump as much as offering to be his less effective shadow. It’s not really much of a choice because it’s not supposed to be.

Which is why we have to stop humoring discussions of winning over GOP voters with logic or policy or moral suasion. They aren’t voting for Donald Trump absent alternatives or in spite of his plans or because they take him literally and not seriously or seriously but not literally or any other excuse. Iowa voters braved a blizzard because Trump is who they want. They are not interested in being convinced.

So I propose that we all stop trying to understand or persuade Trump voters and just decide to beat them. No more explainers, no more deflections. No more arguments about how we have to tolerate their intolerable cruelty or else we will be just like them. Stop pretending that these voters are rational, that they represent a legitimate political view in a democracy, that they can be negotiated with as partners instead of imposed upon as electoral losers. Trump acolytes don’t need our pity and they aren’t asking for it. Maybe we should accept that and offer our scorn instead.

Because beating Trump and his authoritarian movement depends not at all on converting the lost and entirely upon activating the disengaged. The longer we pretend that we can bring Trump voters back into the fold, the less time we have to reach people who are actually open to a functioning representative government. In the wake of the results in Iowa, we have a serious choice: We can waste time, resources, and energy on responding to the Republican Party for what we want it to be, or we can deal with it as it really is.

Kaitlin Byrd
Kaitlin Byrd
Knows too much, thinks even more. Has infinite space in her heart for tea and breakfast for dinner. Really from New York, so always ready to cut a bitch.